Girls Hockey: Liu leads Wilton to season-opening hockey win
By JOE RYAN
Villager Correspondent | Posted: Friday, December 13, 2013 12:30 pm
NORWALK?-- Nicole Liu is one of two members of the Brien McMahon portion of the Wilton-McMahon co-op hockey team, but she is blessed with an abundance of hockey skill.
Among all those skills, her most impressive may be the ability to understand when it is her time to take over the game.
Liu scored her third goal of the game with under 10 minutes left on the clock in the third period to lead the Warriors to a 3-2 opening night win over the Trumbull/St Joseph's co-op squad on Wednesday at the SoNo Ice House.
"She brings a grittiness and obviously goal-scoring ability," said Wilton's first-year head coach Melissa Hawkins. "She gets a lot of respect from her teammates."
Liu scored a short-handed goal with 12:12 left in the opening period and added her second on a tip-in from close range just three minutes later. Wilton would continue to dominate the action throughout the first period and for most of the second frame.
With fewer than two minutes left before the second intermission, Trumbull struck back. Lexi Brown cashed in on a low pass at the left post and Kaly Gorski added an unassisted tally one minute later to deadlock the game at 2-2 going into the last period.
"We weren't happy about that but it was only more motivation to pick it up," said Liu, a senior playing her third season with the Warriors. "It was the first game and we weren't sure how we were going to be but I knew our team was better than how we started playing at the end of the second period."
Wilton got an early power play in the final period but was unable to capitalize but received a second chance with a Trumbull player in the sin bin and Liu cashed in for her hat trick.
Trumbull would not go away, however, as they began to find open space behind the Warrior defenders. Brown pitch-forked a backhand shot which just went wide with 3:59 remaining in the game. Gorski came in unimpeded but was stonewalled by Wilton's sophomore goalie Brooke Jonsson.
The Warriors goalie would rob Brown and Gorski one more time each before a tripping penalty on Trumbull with 11.3 second left moved the puck out of the Wilton end for good.
Jonsson was on her game all night making 17 saves and her coach appreciated her effort in the net.
Liu called her play the difference in the game and she was pleased with how the lines were working together. She pointed to their fore-checking, which helped keep Trumbull bottled up in their own zone most of the night.
"Jonsson was amazing, not only in the last minute but the whole game," said Liu. "We were really luck to have her back there."
Wilton had lost only one senior from last year's squad, so there are some high expectations.
Hawkins explained that they were not meeting those expecations at the end of the second period.
"We let down, but definitely in the locker room, chat between the second and third period helped to bring them back up. We were able to put a puck in and squeak out a win.," said Hawkins. "We set the bar high for these kids and every day at practice we push them a little harder. That's what we told them between periods -- that they work so hard a practice to let a game like this slip away is unacceptable."
Wilton is 1-0 but had to deal with a scary moment when senior Emilie Arrix -- who came back to the program after taking her junior year off -- fell hard into the boards late in the third period. Arrix laid on the ice for several minutes before being helped off by the training staff.
Trumbull coach Paula Dady admitted that her team needed to play more consistent throughout the whole game and that a two-minute segment was not enough. The Eagles are 0-1
"We decided to show up in the second period but this is one of those leagues where you have to come out right from the start," said Dady.